Cheung, Tammy

Critical Biography    Filmography    Reviews    Links   Bibliography

 Cheung, Tammy – Critical Biography  Top

Tammy Cheung
Tammy Cheung

Tammy Cheung was born in Shanghai but moved to Hong Kong as a child. Before attending university, Cheung worked a variety of odd jobs, including teaching, working for the government, and even as a prison guard. Ultimately, she chose to study abroad and enrolled at Montreal’s Concordia University, where she studied filmmaking. As a film student, Cheung became acquainted with the work of Frederick Wiseman, whose Direct Cinema-influenced methods of observational documentary filmmaking Cheung found inspiring. Cheung eventually returned to Hong Kong and launched her own directorial career in the late 1990s as a documentary filmmaker.

Her first work, Invisible Women (1999), focused on three Indian women (a barrister and two domestic workers) and their different experiences of living as marginalized ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. Her subsequent film, Secondary School (2002), attracted a great deal of media attention and was widely discussed. It observed the daily occurrences at two high schools – Ying Wah College and the St. Catherine’s School for Girls – in order to mount an institutional critique in the manner of Wiseman’s classic documentary, High School (1968). Cheung became a much talked about documentary filmmaker, and she quickly followed Secondary School with two important documentary shorts on the subject of Hong Kong’s senior citizens. Rice Distribution (2003) captures elders queuing up for free rice distributed by Taoist organizations at the annual Ghost Festival, whilst Moving (2003) deals with senior citizens moving out of aging Ngau Tau Kok public housing when the area was being claimed by the government for re-development.

Secondary School (2002)
Secondary School (2002)

Cheung filmed the massive demonstrations that took place on July 1st, 2003, when Hong Kong protestors marched against the legislation and implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, a controversial national security measure. The intense political atmosphere of the moment was captured in Cheung’s July (2004), and she continued in a political vein filming the 2004 Legislative Council elections, although the edited footage was not seen until 2008, with the release of Election (2008). Cheung made another documentary short in Hong Kong (Speaking Up, 2005), in which Hong Kong citizens from a variety of backgrounds speak out and voice their opinions on a range of issues, before turning her attention to the Mainland. A sequel to Speaking Up (Speaking Up 2, 2006) was then shot with primary school students in Jiangxu, China. Cheung followed this short with the feature-length documentary Village Middle School (2006), concerning a rural secondary school in Yunnan.

Speaking Up (2005)
Speaking Up (2005)

In order to facilitate distribution of her own work as well as that of fellow documentary filmmakers, Cheung founded Visible Record in 2004, which is a distribution network through which the annual Chinese Documentary Festival is also organized.

Rice Distribution (2003)
Rice Distribution (2003)

Filmography   Top

Feature Films:

Title (Eng)
Title (Chi)
Director Election (Trailer) 選舉 2008
Director Village Middle School (Trailer) 農村初中 2006
Director Speaking Up 2005
Director July 七月 2004
Director Rice Distribution (Trailer) 平安米 2003
Director Moving (Trailer) 搬屋 2003
Director Secondary School 中學 2002
Director Invisible Women 看不見的女人 1999


Title (Eng)
Title (Chi)
Director Speaking Up 2 問—大陸小學 2007

Reviews   Top


SCMP: Overt racism, bad education and less freedom – a Hong Kong filmmaker on her city

香港獨立媒體 (In Chinese):

Interview of Tammy Cheung:

HK Magazine:
大紀元 (In Chinese):
明報周刊 (In Chinese):
蘋果日報 (In Chinese):
信報 (In Chinese):
大學線-香港中文大學 (In Chinese):
外灘晝報 (In Chinese):
Personal blog of Laila Chan (In Chinese):
Brown Daily Herald: Tammy Cheung: Exploring Hong Kong through film


Links   Top

Visible Record:

Bibliography   Top

Aitken, Ian and Michael Ingham. “Aesthetics and Radicalism: An Overview of Independent Documentary Film in Hong Kong, 1973-2013.” Aitken, Ian and Michael Ingham. Hong Kong Documentary Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. 172-196.

Berry, Chris. “Hong Kong Watcher: Tammy Cheung and the Hong Kong Documentary.” Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image. Ed. Louie Kam. Hong Kong University Press, 2010. 213-228.

Cheung, Esther M. K., Nicole Kempton and Amy Lee. “Documenting Hong Kong: Interview with Tammy Cheung.” Hong Kong Screenscapes: From the New Wave to the Digital Frontier. Ed. Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and See-Kam Tan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011. 151-164.

Cheung, Tammy and Michael Gilson. “Gender Trouble in Hongkong Cinema.” Cinémas: Journal of Film Studies 3.2-3 (1993): 181-201.

Hjort, Mette. “Flamboyant Risk Taking: Why Some Filmmakers Embrace Avoidable and excessive Risks.” Film and Risk. Ed. Mette Hjort. Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2012. 31-54.

Hjort, Mette. “On Method, Production, and Reception: Documentary Filmmaking in Hong Kong.” Hjort, Mette. Stanley Kwan’s Center Stage. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2006. 10-15.

Ingham, Michael. “From Xu Xi to the Chief Executive: Hong Kong in the Dock.” Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image. Ed. Louie Kam. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010. 97-112.

Ingham, Mike. “Hong Kong Cinema and the Film Essay: A Matter of Perception.” Hong Kong Screenscapes: From the New Wave to the Digital Frontier. Ed. Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and See-Kam Tan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011. 175-194.

Marchetti, Gina. “Hong Kong as Feminist Method: Gender, Sexuality, and Democracy in Two Documentaries by Tammy Cheung.” Hong Kong Culture and Society in the New Millennium: Hong Kong as Method. Ed. Y. W. Chu. Singapore: Springer, 2017. 59–76.

(Last Update: April 2019)